As the world becomes ever smaller, due to the ease of travel and the ever pervasive internet, I’ve sometimes wondered whether there are any ‘relatively’ accessible places that have yet to be done to death by photography. Other than some extremely remote and distant places, where it may be very expensive, difficult or risky to venture, there would hardly be a unique place on earth today that hasn’t been photographed to such an extent that the scenes have effectively become clichés. Antelope Canyon in the US, Iceland (one of the newly saturated photography destinations), African Safari Parks, Ayers Rock in Australia, Machu Picchu in Peru, Cambodia, the Antarctic and many other places all come to mind. While these locations are naturally wonderful places to visit, I’m not sure that they offer as much for a photographer looking for something new, as they did decades ago.
There is hardly a place in this world where someone hasn’t trodden and taken a pile of photographs to show the world. A simple Google image search of just about any place you can think of will provide a vast array of photographs, some ordinary, some good, some outstanding. And it’s not just tourists that are everywhere, but all manner of organisations are using these places for their stories and whatever. I’m not suggesting that it’s all bad, as there are now places that people can visit that decades ago was nigh on impossible, but with that opportunity comes the inevitable over-use and then strict controls, such as designated paths, viewing platforms, no-go zones and the like to prevent things getting out of hand. Some European countries even have restrictions on photographing and sharing certain iconic subjects; for example, it’s illegal to photograph the Eiffel Tower at night!
I think that’s another reason why I like Gippsland in general and the High Country in particular. While the High Country is by no means isolated and untouched, it’s far less travelled than the usual tourist routes and, in many cases, far less photographed as well. There are sights and scenes that you come across that most likely no one has stopped to photograph. And when it comes to our Cruises, each one of these provides unique opportunities that are quite different than were you to go to regular tourist venues or do group tours of Australia where you experience the same tourist traps with thousands of others. Some might suggest that the High Country is all the same but, as I’ve said a number of times in my High Country stories, every year, month and day will be different from the next, as will the location from the last time that you visited.
Certainly for many, taking photographs at iconic locations is purely for their own pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with that, as it provides memories of places that you’ve visited. Nowadays it especially involves selfies; hopefully with something of the place you’re visiting visible in the background, to actually remind you of the location. But even selfies at iconic locations are done to death, especially if you happen to use Facebook, Instagram and other social media. You can even get helpful courses on taking selfies at some universities nowadays; but anyway, I’ve previously written about what I think of selfies. In the olden times, you’d ask someone else to take your photo or set up a tripod and get more than just a face in the shot.
Because one of the things that I now do is write stories and accompany those stories with photographs, it can make things easier as well as more difficult at times to find photographs for those stories. Sometimes the stories and photographs fall naturally into place, especially with many of my stories about Gippsland, but at other times it’s a lot harder to find the right photographs to marry up with the stories. Events like the Blessing of the Bikes and the Berryden sheep dog trials, generally provide something slightly different so that you can maintain an interesting story with a repeating theme, though even then it’s not always easy. But with things such as my regular visits to Mossvale Park, it becomes much more difficult to ‘see’ something new.
As I mentioned, local photography is, for me, far more rewarding than the idea of flying off to some popular overseas destination and this year’s Blessing of the Bikes is a case in point. Years ago I went to Bali for the first (and only) time with my wife, who loves to go there as often as possible. While I found Bali an interesting place, trying to keep as far away from the tourist traps as possible, I never really had a great urge to return. I think I’d have exactly the same sentiment regarding most ‘iconic’ overseas locations, to the point I wouldn’t even want to go there in the first place. Having done a fair bit of travel over the years, and plenty within Australia, I’ve come to disdain these tourist traps, as most are akin to theme parks nowadays. To me, even Tasmania has become such a place.
As a final word, I do understand that finding something ‘new’ to photograph in well trodden places is often a case of ‘seeing’ differently, but it’s not always that easy to do as you fight the crowds, pre-determined pathways and all manner of restrictions. Truth be told, there is unlikely to ever be a last frontier as such, just another perspective on what exists. Yet some photographers keep suggesting more of the same. I wonder how other photographers feel about ‘their’ last frontier?
Update 1: And as if someone had been reading my story, I came across this one.
Update 2: And here’s a photographer who loves those unexplored areas.
Update 4: And this story puts things into perspective when I wrote about Iceland.
Update 5: This adds an interesting perspective to what I’ve written: ‘This video shows that everyone takes the exact same Instagram travel photos‘